‘You’re going to laugh at how I have to get in,” Kristine Nutting says as she zeroes in on the Old Muttart Manufacturing Warehouse’s entrance, walking past the corrugated metal siding, a boarded up street-entrance and a large chain-link fence to arrive at an imposing garage door on the building’s west side. Sure enough, Nutting has to, uh, roll her way into the building, vanishing for a few moments while she unlocks the normal-sized door nearby. It’s pitch-black inside; an iPhone flashlight helps navigate a minefield of props en route to the actual lighting rig, but Nutting walks along with confident clip: she seems to know her way in the dark.
As far as “site-specific” theatre goes, an empty warehouse on the edge of downtown is about as far as it gets from theatre’s usual housing (for the record, Nutting does have approval to be here). But then again, it isn’t quite theatre that Nutting’s after, either: Devour Content Here is looking to wilfully, joyfully explode the usual expectations and experiences of performance, and in doing so examine the systems of creation—economic or otherwise—that forces art and artists into certain confines. The result of those systems, Nutting posits, is a very particular, problematic kind of creation, problematic by virtue of its ubiquity.
“Canadian theatre is in trouble,” she says, perched under a temporary lamp on some wooden stairs, “because the writing is being limited by budgets. So everything’s a four-person, five-person realist narrative. Maybe Catalyst [Theatre] do [shows with] eight people, and it’s a stylized romanticism. But that’s the only stuff that can survive a professional theatre.
“Compile that with funding—what gets funded—and the cuts to funding,” she continues. “I think the spirit of even regional theatre, and the Massey Commission looks at what Canadian artists can contribute to our culture, is in peril.”
Devour, then, looks to address that in both its structure and content. In terms of the former, it seems defiant of limitations, willing to embrace impossible tasks. The cast is 20-some people, a mix of professional and amateur performers, including a coal miner, an astrophysicist and a firefighter in its ranks.
In terms of its content, Devour stakes out non-realist territory for itself: it’s a presentation of Nutting’s script, Of Love and Wheat, a prairie fantasy that tumbleweeds through the Great Depression (when many of the systems that still guide art and art funding were established, Nutting notes). There is a narrative, but it’ll be a loose, very self-aware one.
“It purposely borrows and steals from everything,” she says. “It’s Romeo and Juliet; it’s The Black Rider; it’s a Tino Sehgal piece; it’s totally derivative, but we’re talking about that endless repetition within culture. And within it, something new is alive.”
Nutting—who’s previously created Pig, Meat Bikini and Three Sisters: A Black Opera In Three Acts—carries a mischievous but informed air about her, fully aware of the difficulties of challenging the status quo, but happy to do so anyway. Devour’s the result of a creative process she began to explore while taking an MFA in Berlin (Her thesis: “on the modes of artistic production, and the impact of late capitalism on that.”)
“It’s trying to address failure in a fun way—while failing,” she says. “What would it look like if we failed? What if we don’t have the money? And then, also re-evaluating: what if we are our greatest resource? If it is just time, and we can provide that for ourselves, and if we’re not doing it for the money, how does that alleviate us artistically? How does that relieve the pressure?
“So far it’s been a noble experiment, for sure,” she continues. “At the end, I think it will be interesting and fun regardless—mostly because of the space, mostly because of the amateur quality juxtaposed with the tight qualities. I’m really into this idea of alleviating monetary pressure, and what the impact is on the artistic process. And that’s why we agreed to do it. Everybody was excited about that.”
Fri, Sep 4 – Sun, Sep 6 (8 pm)Mon, Sep 7 (2:30 pm)
Devour Content Here
Old Muttart Manufacturing Warehouse (10930 – 84 St), $20